Sony VAIO Tap 11 review

The Sony VAIO Tap 11 might be the best looking tablet PC we've reviewed, but while the tablet is attractive, the performance leaves something to be desired.
Photo of Sony VAIO Tap 11

Mobile tablets and slate PCs seem to be everywhere these days, but few do much to distinguish themselves from the dozens of other black rectangles with touch screens on the market. The Sony VAIO Tap 11 manages to do what most other tablets fail to do, which is to be both functional and stylish. The VAIO Tap 11 is extremely slim, but that thinness is paired with a sleek looking design and decent feature set. The performance, though passable, is nothing to brag about, and its price is definitely on the high side, but the Sony VAIO Tap 11 is a solid choice if you’re looking for one of the thinnest, lightest Windows 8 tablets available.


Design

The VAIO Tap 11 takes quite a few cues from the Microsoft Surface Pro, and was designed to compete with the Surface Pro 2. The VAIO Tap 11 measures 0.39 by 12.0 by 7.4 inches (HWD) and weighs a scant 1.7 pounds, making it slimmer and lighter than the 0.53-inch thick, 2 pound Surface Pro. The tablet features an 11-inch display with 1,920-by-1,080 resolution, and it uses Sony’s Triluminous display technology, a proprietary variant of IPS technology which offers rich colors and clear viewing from almost any angle. The display offers two types of touch support, with capacitive touch for fingertips and a digitizer for use with an included digitizer pen.

The tablet’s aluminum unibody chassis features a built in kickstand, letting you use it upright on a table or desk, or close the kickstand for handheld use. Unlike the Surface kickstand, however, the Sony approach uses a slim one-inch wide leg instead of running the full length of the tablet. This both reduces the overall stability of the stand and makes it a bit less convenient to open, since you’ll need to flip over the tablet or reach behind it to adjust the kickstand. It does, however, improve upon the Microsoft approach in two ways. First, the kickstand can be adjusted to any angle within an 85-degree range, making it much easier to find the screen angle that works for you. To compare, the kickstand on Microsoft’s Surface only has one set position, and the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 adds a second position. Second, the end of the kickstand is rubber-coated, providing real traction, so the tablet isn’t going to slide on a surface that isn’t level or skitter away when your desk gets bumped.

The bundled wireless keyboard is also a cover, but unlike the Surface keyboards, which magnetically latch into place and double as soft screen covers, the VAIO Tap 11 cover is a slim Bluetooth keyboard, which magnetically latches into place and charges via a small charging port on the front of the tablet. Bluetooth wireless keyboards are often used on tablets to eliminate the need for a USB or dock connector, much like the keyboard seen on the Acer Aspire P3-171-6820. The keyboard has chiclet keys and a small touchpad, complete with gesture support and discrete right and left buttons, but measures a scant 4.5 millimeters thick. Despite this, the keyboard still manages to offer a full millimeter of stroke depth, making for a typing experience very similar to that of the Microsoft Surface TypeCover.

Closing the keyboard cover also puts the tablet to sleep, making it simpler to transition from on-the-go use to stowing the tablet. The keyboard cover clings to the tablet magnetically, which holds somewhat securely to the face of the tablet, but it is prone to sliding around, even with the recessed charging port properly aligned. As a result, the cover doesn’t always stay in place as well as it should, and I had real concerns about a sliding cover scratching the glass surface of the display. Finally, because it’s wireless, the keyboard has its own internal battery, which charges while the cover is closed, but if the keyboard is used for extended periods of time, you may find the battery running out too soon, with no way to charge it while using the tablet.

In addition to the wireless keyboard, the VAIO Tap 11 also comes with a digitizer pen. While there’s no built-in storage for the pen on the tablet itself, Sony includes a plastic clip which adds an easy (if slightly kludgy) way to keep the pen and tablet together. The digitizer pen features two buttons, for adding right and left mouse click functionality. One drawback of this and other digital pens, however, is the need for a battery. You won’t need to replace the battery often, but when you do, you’ll need a tiny AAAA battery.


Features

On the right-hand edge of the tablet is a power button and physical buttons for volume adjustment, along with a headset jack. Despite the extremely slim chassis of the tablet, the VAIO Tap 11 does offer one full-size USB 3.0 port, a rarity on tablet PCs. Additionally, hidden away behind the two port covers on the left and top edges of the tablet, you’ll find a micro HDMI output and a microSD card.

The power connector on the VAIO Tap 11 is short and stubby, making it both easy to disconnect and difficult to properly plug in. An added touch, however, on the power adapter brick is a powered USB port for charging a phone or other device at the same time as the tablet without monopolizing more than one power outlet.

On the front of the tablet, there’s a front-facing webcam which uses Sony’s Exmor R image sensor and dual-array microphones for clearer picture and sound when using Skype or similar services. On the back, an 8 megapixel camera (this time with Sony’s Exmor RS sensor) is available for shooting video or snapshots, along with an integrated near-field communication (NFC) sensor for pairing the tablet with any of Sony’s NFC-enabled wireless accessories.

The VAIO Tap 11 is equipped with dual-band 802.11n wi-fi, which offers better connectivity than the 2.4GHz alone offered by single band alternatives. Bluetooth 4.0 + HS is used for the wireless keyboard, though the keyboard is paired to the tablet out of the box. Intel’s Wireless Display technology (WiDi) lets you wirelessly stream HD content to any TV equipped with a WiDi receiver, while a built-in IR blaster and accompanying universal remote app lets you command your entire home theater setup from the tablet.

The VAIO Tap 11 is equipped with a 128GB solid-state drive, which comes preinstalled with Windows 8 (64-bit)—not the limited Windows RT—along with a 30-day trial of Microsoft Office 365, a 30-day trial of Kaspersky Internet Security, and a few free extras, like VAIO Care, PlayMemories Home, and ArtRage Studio. In addition to active pen support, the VAIO Tap 11 also comes with VAIO Paper, for handwritten note taking, and VAIO Clip, a screen capture and notation app that utilizes the stylus. Sony covers the VAIO Tap 11 with a one-year limited warranty, including toll-free phone support, though premium support is available for a small fee.


Performance

The VAIO Tap 11 is outfitted with an Intel Core i5-4210Y processor, a 1.5GHz dual-core CPU designed to fit into the tiny environs of a tablet chassis. While it will run the 64-bit version of Windows 8, it doesn’t compare well against other Core i5 tablets, falling far behind the Microsoft Surface Pro (4,768 points) and the Samsung ATIV SmartPC Pro 700T (XE700T1C-A01US) (4,471 points). Performance in Cinebench illustrate how underpowered the processor is, scoring 1.39 points where most competitors were well over 2, like the Surface Pro (2.39 points), the Samsung ATIV SmartPC Pro 700T (2.38 points), and even Sony’s own convertible Sony VAIO Duo 11 (D11213CX) (2.40 points). This naturally led to slower multimedia performance, completing Handbrake in 2 minutes 30 seconds, and Photoshop in 6:57, again falling well behind competitors.

The VAIO Tap 11 relies on Intel’s integrated graphics solution, and shifting graphics processing to an already underpowered processor didn’t produce great scores. However, the graphics are more than sufficient for web browsing and media streaming, though you won’t likely be using the tablet for any gaming more demanding than Candy Crush.

While the processor doesn’t offer top of the line performance, it does allow fairly good battery life. The extremely thin VAIO Tap 11 has a LiPoly battery sealed into the chassis, which lasted 3 hours 55 minutes in our battery rundown test. Just shy of 4 hours is pretty good for such a lightweight, slim-bodied tablet, given that there’s very little room for a battery in the first place. It also puts the Tap 11 ahead of the Sony Duo 11 (3:09) and on par with the Kupa UltraNote X15 Ultra (3:58), but other tablets offer as much as a full hour more battery life, like the Acer Aspire P3-171-6820 (5:11).

While the Sony VAIO Tap 11 doesn’t offer the best performance in the PC tablet category, it does have the distinction of being one of the thinnest, lightest tablets I’ve seen. Combine the lightweight design with fairly good battery life, and the VAIO Tap 11 proves to be both portable and stylish. While the Editors’ Choice Microsoft Surface Pro offers better performance and battery life, the Sony VAIO Tap 11 does add some desirable features, like the digitizer pen, adjustable kickstand, and an excellent display. If performance isn’t a priority, the Sony VAIO Tap 11 is worth considering.

Specifications
Touchscreen Yes
Processor Name Intel Core i5-4210Y
Operating System Microsoft Windows 8
Weight 1.7 lb
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 4200
Screen Type Widescreen
Type Tablet
RAM 4 GB
Networking Options 802.11n (2.4+5 GHz Dualband)
Processor Speed 1.5 GHz
Primary Optical Drive External
Screen Size 11.6 inches
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 128 GB
Storage Type SSD

Verdict
The Sony VAIO Tap 11 might be the best looking tablet PC we've reviewed, but while the tablet is attractive, the performance leaves something to be desired.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc